August 10th – It may not be the most historically important date, but it sure is a tasty one. “S’MORES,” named as such because everyone who enjoys the ooey, gooey snack asks for “some more.” S’mores have been around since the 19th century, and they’re everyone’s favorite camping staple. They are easy to assemble and they are made from inexpensive ingredients, so there’s no wondering why we’ve embraced them wholeheartedly and keep asking for ‘SOME MORE.’ It’s a little unclear the exact moment when someone stacked a fire-roasted marshmallow on top of a couple of squares of chocolate and sandwiched the pair between graham crackers, but after years of making word-of-mouth s’mores, someone finally published an official recipe in 1927 in the Girl Scout Handbook. Another interesting milestone for the sweet treat was in 1974. This marked “s’more” graduating and becoming an official word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
We’ve been whipping up marshmallows for quite some time; the goo of the roots and stem of the mallow plant—which grows, where else? In marshes—is sweet and thought to have been used by Ancient Egyptians to candy nuts for royalty. In the 1800s, the French brought their keen taste to the table. They added egg whites to the sap, whipped it up, and poured the mixture into molds. Further evolution substituted the titular mallow with gelatin and cornstarch, seeing as gathering natural mallow was time consuming and expensive. 1954 was when the official marshmallow shape came about, courtesy of a Chicago man named Alex Doumakes. Americans top the list in the marshmallow fan club; 90 million pounds of marshmallow are purchased annually. This ongoing love affair with marshmallows means that they were already a popular treat around the time we started squishing them together with chocolate and graham.
If you thought marshmallows had a lengthy history, chocolate’s past is equally storied: the ancient Aztecs and Mayans who lived about 2,000 years ago figured out that they could pluck seeds from the North American cacao tree and grind them down to mix with water and make delicious drinks. They added other native spices to the beverage, giving it a unique and spicy flavor. The drink wasn’t for the commoner; it was for the elite class. The Mayans and Aztecs elevated the cacao seed on an important cultural pedestal, which is probably why the Spanish Conquistadors saw it fit to import cacao into Europe. Europeans put the sweet twist on the naturally bitter delicacy, completing the transformation from seed to drink to modern chocolate. One of the biggest chocolate companies is Hershey’s; they found their widespread fame because they adapted the chocolate recipe so that it could be more affordable. Also, the favored chocolate in S’more recipes.
Historically the newest ingredient of the campfire dessert trio wasn’t invented until 1829. Health-nut and vegetarian Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham advocated making flour by combining and then coarsely grinding finely ground wheat flour with wheat bran and germ because of the resulting high fiber flour. The flour caught on, and it was aptly named after Graham. Predictably, graham flour is the base for Graham crackers. Alone, graham crackers are very mild, but over time the food industry has adapted them into variations like sugar cinnamon graham crackers, chocolate graham crackers, and honey graham crackers. Time has brought graham crackers quite a few steps closer to being graham cookies. These variations erase most of the health benefits Sylvester was in pursuit of, but it makes them even better candidates for s’mores.
8 sheets honey graham crackers
1- 4.4 ounce bar milk chocolate, broken into 8 pieces
8 large marshmallows
First things first – the absolute best s’mores (and memories) are made over a Campfire.
Campfire Basics –
A fire needs three things to work: fuel, heat and oxygen. What makes these fires different is largely in how the ratios of those three things is controlled.
You’ll need dry wood to get a fire going. Pick up dry crackly twigs off the ground. A saw or axe will help you cut those down, then chop them into usable lengths. An axe or large knife will then help you split those logs, which is what allows you to access the dry wood inside and reduces the size of the pieces you have to work with. You can produce everything down to kindling from the dry center of dead trees and branches, but you’ll need to find or create another source of tinder to spark your fire into life.
Dry grasses are one good source of tinder, or you can whittle a feather stick from a dry sliver of wood. When processing your wood, try to create stuff that looks like commercial firewood. You need a manageable length and for it to be split into fourths. This helps expose the dry center to the flames while creating more exposed angles from which fire can catch. Once you’ve prepared your materials, you’re ready to build a fire. For cooking you’ll be creating both a Tipi and Star style Campfire for roasting the marshmallows.
You see this style in cowboy movies for a reason. It uses minimal wood and effort to burn for a very long time. That makes the Star best for all-night fires or use in a fire pit.
Get going with a solid Tipi fire in the middle, then place logs around the fire in 3 or 5 points. Slowly push the logs in further as they burn down.
Build one with the smallest, driest, most exposed pieces of wood possible. Then, either put your tinder in its center and light it or light it first, then scoot it in. Don’t forget to leave a “door” through which to do that!
The basic idea is to create a structure that concentrates the flame while allowing plenty of air to enter. Start with enough wood on your Tipi to get going, then just add more slowly as the fire builds. Start small and work up to larger pieces as appropriate. Sticking a forked branch in the ground as a center pole for your tipi makes building one easier. Another option is to build the entire thing before lighting, just remember that door and remember the necessary progression of wood sizes as you work outwards and upwards.
Assembling the S’Mores
Working with a few at a time, skewer a marshmallow on a long fork or metal skewer and hold over the heat about 2 inches above the grates. Toast, turning occasionally, until the marshmallow puffs and turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. As the marshmallows toast they will become soft and start to droop off the skewer.
While the marshmallow is roasting, halve each graham cracker sheet crosswise into 2 squares. Working with 1 or 2 s’mores at a time, place a square of graham cracker on a piece of foil and top with a portion of chocolate. Pre-warm by placing on the edge of the campfire just until the chocolate is warmed and softened, about 30 seconds.
Carefully remove the graham cracker squares and chocolate from the side of the campfire. Using the square of graham with the chocolate and a plain graham square, place the marshmallow on the chocolate and, using the plain graham, squish the marshmallow down and pull off the skewer. The best warm, sweet and sticky treat, ever!